Sochi concerns coming, praise going out from USA officials

SOCHI, Russia -- After heading into Sochi, with all the concerns about security, preparation and politics, U.S. Olympic Committee officials went to great lengths to praise these much-maligned Games in their closing news conference.

"They've done a phenomenal job," said USOC chairman Larry Probst, mentioning everything from smooth transportation to Vladimir Putin's presence throughout the previous 15 days. "(Putin) has really owned these Games," he said.

Amid #SochiProblems, big and small, the most expensive Games in history at $51 billion, the U.S. delegation will leave Russia with few complaints.

"We are very, very impressed," CEO Scott Blackmun said.

Related Story: Vladimir Putin visits Team USA in Sochi

In the weeks before Sochi, hockey player Julie Chu, the flag bearer for Sunday's closing ceremony, said she was asked about Russia's anti-gay laws more than any other topic. Chu said all the athletes felt welcomed.

"It's been a nonfactor here," Chu said. "This has been an incredibly enjoyable experience."

With one day of competition remaining, the USA and Russia are atop the medal count with 27 each. It's the most medals the U.S. team has won in an Olympics outside of North America. Still it is way below the mark set at in Vancouver. Four years ago, the U.S. team turned in its best performance in history with 37 medals, the most ever won by any nation at a single Winter Games.

In Sochi, the U.S. speedskating team, both short and long track, had a dismal showing. In long track, the Americans were shut out of a medal for the first time since 1984 and one of the sport's all-time greats, Shani Davis, ended his Olympic career with disappointment, finishing 8th and 11th.

"We weren't the only national team that got smoked by the Netherlands," Blackmun said, reiterating again that it wasn't about the suits. The Dutch won 21 of 30 individual medals.

Related Story: U.S. medal streak ends as men's hockey falls apart

In figure skating, the men and women had their worst finish since 1936.

"While we may not be winning as many medals in certain sports that we'd like to, we're doing extremely well," said Alan Ashley, the USOC's chief of high performance. "It's not as though we're doing worse, the whole level of competition across the world and the diversity across the board, is growing,"

Twelve of the U.S.'s medals came from freestyle skiing and snowboarding, including six of nine gold medals.


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